24 May 2017

Story by Amy Burke

CHETEK, Wis. -- Once they heard that a tornado was heading toward Barron County, Darla Amundson and Kevin Duffield took off.

“We left. We were watching the news and decided to go with our camper to Sand Creek,” Amundson said.

Duffield is the compound manager at Prairie Lake Estates, the mobile home park that was leveled in Chetek, Wisconsin after an EF-3 tornado on Tuesday. One person was killed and 25 people were injured.

RELATED: "I Always Wanted to be Part of Something Special" Chetek Tornado Survivor Recalls Moments After Tornado Hit

Emergency officials said 38 mobile homes were destroyed, eight sustained major damage and three have minor damage.

When the couple returned, both said it was hard to process what had happened.

"I remember coming back thinking everyone was gone,” Duffield said. “I don't want to see this anymore."

He said their home had moved five feet in the storm. Oddly enough, Amundson said when she approached their home of four and a half years, the door was open but her laptop was still propped open on the kitchen table, untouched. There was also a glass table on their porch that was still intact.

RELATED: Wisconsin Salvation Army Serves 1,000th Meal in Chetek Since Tornado Touched Down

Amundson thinks a tree near the side of their home and a deck prevented their home from flipping over, unlike their neighbor Mike Candler’s place.

On Thursday, Duffield was climbing on top of Candler’s home, via a tree, because he heard a faint meowing noise.

After a quick search, he found a litter of newborn kittens, alive and hungry. He carefully placed them in a flowerpot and lowered them down to two Humane Society employees.

After grabbing a lunch provided by The Salvation Army at the scene, Amundson took a look around her former neighborhood.

“I haven’t broken down yet,” she said. “But I believe that with anything bad that happens, something good will come out of it.”

How to Help Chetek Tornado Survivors:

Monetary donations are the most critical need as supplies and personnel move into the area. 100% of donations identified for Chetek will help those affected.

Online: Text CHETEK to 41444 to receive a donation link for easy mobile giving.

By Phone: Call 1-800-264-6412

By Mail: To donate via mail, please make checks payable to “The Salvation Army” and clearly marked “Chetek Tornado”.

The Salvation Army
P.O. Box 8
Rice Lake, WI 54868